Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When life gets in the way

The 2010-2011 school year was a trying one for us. The Reader's Digest version is that we dealt with most of the stressful major life events during one year, including pregnancy, illness, a new job, job loss, and wedding planning. Considering that we have a large family so already deal with the day to day stress of busy schedules and inadequate cash flow, let's just say it was a hard year. Of course trials often travel hand in hand with blessing so we had some of those as well.

Shortly before school started last fall, we found out we were pregnant with baby number 8. Within a week, I started experiencing difficulties and the Friday prior to labor day I began bleeding heavily and assumed we miscarried. We typically begin school the day after labor day and this year would be no different. We broke out our new books and pencils and life continued on. We participated in our local homeschool co-op, Jayson had the lead in our local theaters production of Hansel and Gretel, we stayed as busy as usual. In mid October we again found out we were pregnant. Not pregnant AGAIN however, but STILL pregnant. That's right, I could have starred on "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant".
Our surprise turned to shock and then to prayers as I went on to be diagnosed with complete placenta previa, then a thinning cervix, placenta accreta, and finally placenta percreta. I was put on bedrest in December, and then delivered our son four weeks and one day early in March. He was born via a scary and messy cesarean, which kept me in the OR for more than 5 hours while the doctors repaired the damage the placenta caused, followed by a day and a half in the ICU on a ventilator. Sterling spent two days in the NICU being treated for hypoglycemia.
Six weeks after Sterling was born, my husband Brad was laid off from his job but luckily found another and didn't miss a day of work. The downside was that the new job was four states away. This left me barely recovered from life threatening surgery, with a brand new baby, running my home and family without my husband. This new job lasted four weeks before he was laid off a second time, this time with no job prospects. Around this same time, we put the proverbial cherry on the top when our only daughter became engaged. The wedding date was set for August 6, and wedding planning commenced with her in Idaho carrying a full load at school, and us in Delaware with no job.

So why did I tell you my life story of the last year? "What does this have to do with homeschooling?", you may be asking. Everything! Homeschooling is just another facet of our life. We don't just stop learning or stop teaching because life gets hard. The honest truth, once I was put on bedrest, those shiny books didn't get much attention. The older kids would pull theirs out for a lesson here or there, but we certainly didn't finish the books. All of them were allowed much more television than is typical. Some of it was educational, some not so much. We missed all but a couple of field trips that friends volunteered to drive them to, and most of the park days. The kids were able to attend co-op in the spring thanks to the help of family and friends, and little
league season was able to go on as normal.
My kids learned some valuable lessons last year. They may have fallen a bit "behind" (whatever that means) in their math books, but they grew as human beings. They learned about service, both as they served their own family and as they watched others serve all of us. They learned about teamwork, and keeping the family running, even when it was hard. They learned about sacrifice of time and of money. We all learned about faith, and about hope. There were mini science lessons involved with the pregnancy and new baby. Many books were read to pass the time. Our family definitely has learned perspective, what is important and what is not in the grand scheme of things.

As far as formal schooling goes, we are starting fresh this fall. It is too overwhelming to me to try to make up that much book work, and unnecessary in my opinion. My oldest school aged child is going into 8th grade. That means he still has five years left to be ready for college and he is bright. I am not worried. This choice is not the right one for everyone though. My friend Cynthia also had a trying year. Her mother lives in another state and has been ill and facing major surgery. Cynthia made several road trips with her three children to be with her mother. Between these trips, her children had some medical needs of their own. Due to the homeschooling method they use, it was important that the kids finished this years curriculum, so they just continued right on through summer. Of course her children also learned important life lessons similar to those we learned, as well as "living geography" during their road trips. They also were provided the wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with their extended family.

I think most families who homeschool will experience some period of time when life just gets in the way of school. That may be a week here and there, or even a month or year. Some things to consider if (when?) it happens to you:
  • Look for the lessons in the experience.
  • Squeeze in academics when you can, dvd's, books on tape in the car, family games and stories.
  • Adjust your schedule outside of the box, school in the evenings, on weekends, or in the summer.
  • Adjust your educational method if possible. Switch to more child led, or more workbooks, or even to a more structured program if time for planning is the issue.
  • Remember that there is still time left to learn what must be learned before they are grown.
Remember I mentioned blessings? Here are a few
of ours this year :)

Our miracle baby on the day he was born

Little League season signaled the beginning of a return to normalcy

Sister got married and it was beautiful :)
(photo courtesy of Kelly Lisk Photography)

~Heather (East Coast Hippie)

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